On July 5th the Commissioners of Indian Affairs informed Governor Burnet that the building at Oswego would be finished by the first of August according to Captain Evert Bancker. Supplies of food were running low there because the Palatines who had engaged to provide it had only limited amounts and supplying Oswego directly from Albany was prohibitively expensive. The commissioners tried to reassure the governor that with the bacon they had sent up the previous month and the “wheat meal” provided by the Palatines, matters were not as bad as Captain Nicolls at Oswego suggested. They agreed with him, however, that Oswego very much needed a good Indian Interpreter.
Trade at Oswego was poor and some traders would likely have to bring their goods back. No nations from the vicinity of Tuchsagrondie (present day Detroit) had been there and few from the east. The only trade was coming from closer by, on the north side of Lake Ontario (Cadaraghi) or from those the commissioners described as “our own Indians.” Trade was further complicated by recent changes in the laws that ended the prohibition on trading Indian goods to the French in Canada but still required traders to pay additional duties on them. Governor Burnet accused the commissioners of failing to enforce the new version, but they insisted that they had issued summonses against traders who were out of compliance.
Can a British Governor Punish Indian Murderers at Schoharie?
The commissioners attempted to explain to Governor Burnet the complexities involved in punishing the death of the Palatine settler at Schoharie who had been killed in a quarrel with some Indians after accusing them of stealing a hog. They admitted that an Indian had been hanged in New Jersey for killing an Englishman, but insisted Schoharie was “different Scituated.” The Six Nations were more numerous and of a “different temper” from the native people living in New Jersey. Moreover the Six Nations were aware that Europeans had killed people from the Six Nations and escaped execution even following a trial and judgement. The commissioners told the governor they did not know how to apprehend the murderers in the Schoharie case.
French Threats and Diplomacy
The commissioners learned from John Tippets, a New England man who went to Canada to redeem his captive children, that 400 Frenchmen and 600 Indians were ready to attack Oswego, destroy the new building, kill the English living there, and seize their goods. They also had “private intelligence” that an unidentified individual in Canada had undertaken to surprise and capture Fort Oswego in exchange for 50 pounds. They conveyed this information to Captain Nicolls at Oswego and advised him to be on guard.
Fortunately for the English, Jean Bouillet de La Chassaigne, the governor of Trois Rivieres, arrived in Albany on July 24th with an entourage of his officers and sent a message to Governor Burnet that he wanted to negotiate. The commissioners paid four pounds and ten shillings to Jacob Visger to convey the party to New York in Jacob Visger’s sloop.
By now the French knew the details of the building at Oswego. Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Lery, the engineer for the French fort at Niagara as well as many other buildings in French Canada, drew a plan of the new fort as it existed in 1727. It probably seemed primitive to him compared to his grander vision for Niagara and the other public works that he designed. Below is a copy:
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first substantive entry for July 1727 starts here on p. 191a.
In March the commissioners began to implement Governor Burnet’s plan for the new stone building at Oswego by hiring carpenters and masons. They looked for “two old horses” to send up located sources for stone and other building materials. They hired Luykas Wyngaert and William Barret to get boards from “Mr. Coeymans” with which Anthony Bogardus and Cornelis Bogaert built four “batoes,” because canoes would not be suitable for transporting workmen to Oswego. Finding workmen in Albany or Schenectady was a challenge. Masons and carpenters were expensive and had to be paid for the trip as well as the time at the site. They also had to be skilled enough with boats to make the journey. Even the Germans who now lived in the Mohawk Valley above the Mohawk towns were asking high prices. The commissioners suggested looking to New York for cheaper labor. They also talked to various individuals about working there, including Adam Smith, Keith and William Waldran, Major Isaac Bogaert, Major and Nicolas Groesbeek. The new building would play a significant role in Albany’s economy that year.
Captain Evert Bancker was commissioned as “Captain of all the Christians who are going to trade at the fixed trading place” and charged with reining in those who were already venturing to “remote” places beyond the limits set by the legislature. He was also to oversee the construction of the new building. The commissioners warned the governor that the French already knew about their plans and that the Indians were strongly against “any building to be made by us.” They recommended sending Laurence Claessen to interpret for Captain Bancker on a permanent basis, since they did not trust the traders as reliable interpreters. Bancker was provided with generous presents to persuade the Indians to allow construction to procede.
The proposed building was called a “house” and the rationale for its construction was to protect the goods of the traders. Nonetheless, Burnet thought of it as a counterforce to the French forts, especially Niagara, and from the beginning he planned to have a garrison there. The commissioners asked for soldiers to go up with the workmen to protect the construction from a possible French attack, but the governor did not want to send soldiers until the building was complete.
The commissioners also informed the governor that Captain Bancker had reclaimed a negro woman from the Seneca’s country at considerable expence.
The commissioners explained that if Bancker had not laid out more that 20 pounds to get her back, the Senecas would have sent her to Canada where she would “make a path for other Slaves to desert that way.” They asked the governor to repay Captain Bancker. It is tempting to speculate as to whether she had already taken steps to make that path, even though she was not able to travel it herself.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the best copy of the entries for March 1727 starts here.
In preparation for the conference held September 7-14, Governor William Burnet issued a proclamation that prohibited giving liquor to Indians or trading in Indian goods to be used as presents, thus maintaining control over goods that might influence native decision makers. The proceedings printed in Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Volume 5, beginning on page 786, are substantially the same as the version in the records of the Indian Commissioners. I have not transcribed them, but they are summarized below. DRCHNY also includes a letter that Governor Burnet sent to the Lords of Trade (p. 783 et seq.) along with the treaty, in which he explains that his main goal was to prevent the Six Nations from authorizing the French fort at Niagara. He added some related correspondence between himself and the Governor of Montreal and a questionable deed to Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga lands (DRCHNY 5:800) negotiated secretly with a small group of sachims at the end of the conference. The deed is not part of the records of the Indian Commissioners.
On September 7th Governor Burnet held a private meeting with his staff and a small group of two sachems from each of the Six Nations. Part of the record of this meeting is written out as a series of queries and answers, a different format from the usual one in which wampum belts were presented on specific points and the other side would consider them before responding to them as a group. Burnet, or whoever wrote up the minutes of the meeting, may have structured it this way in order to create a record that supported the idea that the Six Nations were subject to British dominion and the governor could query them as he would do with a subordinate official.
At the private meeting, the Onondaga speaker Ajewachta recounted how the French envoy “Monsieur Longueuil” (Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil, 1687-1755) had presented the building at Niagara as a trading house to replace an existing bark house that had fallen into disrepair. According to Ajewachta, the Onondagas agreed to it despite objections from the Senecas who actually owned the land. Ajewachta tried to reassure Governor Burnet that the region encompassing Niagara and Lake Ontario, would remain “a path of peace for all christians and Indians to come and go forward and backward on account of Trade.” He said the Six Nations told the French that they held firm to the alliance with the English as well as to peace with the French. They wanted the French and the English to settle any disagreements “at Sea and not in [the Six Nations’] Country.”
When Governor Burnet asked the sachims whether they were not sorry that they had agreed to the new building at Niagara, they said Longueil had won them over but they immediately regretted it. They described the extensive negotiations between them and the French in which the Onondagas had tentatively agreed to the French request., but subject to the approval of the rest of the Six Nations and void if they disallowed it. A Seneca Sachim named Kanakarichton verified that the land at Niagara belonged to the Senecas along with land on the other side of the lake. Nonetheless, the French who came to build the fort insisted on finishing it even while the Six Nations were still discussing the situation with the French governor through the interpreter Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire). When the building was finished it would be staffed by 30 soldiers as well as officers and a priest.
The Six Nations also said they had heard that two Frenchmen had asked an unidentified nation living on the Ohio River to take up the hatchet against the Six Nations on behalf of the French, but that nation had refused. The Frenchmen told them that papers were going to circulate to Philadelphia, New York, Albany, and Montreal about an agreement between the French and the English to cut off their nation once the fort at Niagara was complete, but the warriors burned the papers, preventing it. They also heard ominous things from Canada about proceedings between the French and the English, and asked Governor Burnet what news he had heard. Finally they said the traders in their country were cheating them by selling water disguised as rum that went bad in a day or two.
Governor Burnet promised to send someone to oversee the trade to prevent cheating. He explained that France and Great Britain were currently allies who were going to war with Spain. He read them the text of a letter that he had sent to the governor of Canada about the Treaty of Utrecht, which required the French in Canada not to hinder or molest the five Nations or their allies and guaranteed free trade for all. After Governor Burnet encouraged them to do so, the 12 sachims asked him to contact King George and request him to write the King of France to object to Fort Niagara. Burnet closed the meeting by stating that what had transpired would now be stated publicly.
Two days later proceedings resumed with a full gathering of all the representatives of the Six Nations, Governor Burnet, the Commissioners for Indian Affairs, and aldermen from the City of Albany. Governor Burnet, who had been studying the French works on the subject, reviewed in detail the history of the wars between France, its native allies, and the Six Nations, as well as their peaceful relations with the English. He told them that the King of Great Britain was their “true father” who had always fed and cloathed them and provided them with arms. He renewed the Covenant Chain and gave them a belt of wampum.
Governor Burnet told the gathering that Monsieur Longueuil (Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil, 1656-1729, Governor of Montreal, whose son of the same name was in charge of Fort Niagara) had sent him a letter claiming that the Six Nations had unanimously agreed to the new fort at Niagara, but the Six Nations now said they were afraid the fort would enable the French to keep them from their hunting grounds and prevent the far nations from coming to trade. He explained the free trade provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht and said he would convey the Six Nations’ complaints about Fort Niagara to King George, who would ask the King of France to review whether it violated the Treaty of Utrecht. If the fort was in violation it should be removed.
Governor Burnet also said that when he conveyed a request from the Six Nations to the governor of Virginia to set up a meeting, Virginia and South Carolina had complained about attacks on their frontiers by Tuscaroras and others. Burnet asked that the offenders be punished. In particular the Senecas attacked an English trading house called Constichrohare at Characks (Cheraw) and captured an Indian boy who was the slave of Nathaniel Ford along with guns, blankets and powder. The goods and the Indian slave should be delivered to Peter Barbarie, who would reimburse the captors in the name of the owner. Burnet asked the Six Nations not to allow “French Indians” to pass through their country in order to attack the southern colonies.
Kanakarighton responded for the Six Nations. After renewing the Covenant Chain, he said that the Six Nations had already asked the Governor of Canada to stop building the fort at Niagara. They now came to the English “howling” because the French were building on their land. He presented a belt to the governor and asked him to write to King George as soon as possible to have the fort removed.
Kanakarighton notified Governor Burnet that Jean Coeur was expected soon at Onondaga, where he would probably spread negative rumors about the English. He asked Burnet to send a “Man of Experience” to Onondaga to hold a meeting with Jean Coeur in front of the Six Nations. It should be conducted speaking “nothing but Indian between the brother Corlaer and the French, every one to answer for himself concerning what ill Reports he shall have spread” in order to get to the truth and “know who is the lyar.”
Kanakarighton acknowledged Burnet’s concerns about frontier attacks on Virginia and South Carolina. He said that Senecas, Mohawks, Tuscaroras, and “French Indians” were all involved, but their intention was only to pursue Indian enemies present in the trading house that was attacked. The slave that Governor Burnet wanted returned had been given to “Indians who live on a Branch of Susquehannah River, which is called Soghniejadie.” He suggested that the English look for him there themselves because the place was “nearer to you than us” (probably meaning nearer to Virginia.) He asked that the attacks be forgiven as merely accidents committed without the approval of the sachems and agreed to try to stop French Indians to travel through Iroquoia to go fighting. He pointed out that the English must do their part “for many go fighting thro’ Albany to the English Settlements, who do not come thro’ the Six Nations.
Kanakarighton concluded by adding to what Burnet had said about the history of relations between the Six Nations and the English. They arose through trade at a time when goods were cheap, but now goods had become expensive. He asked for cheaper prices, especially for powder. Moreover, now that the Six Nations had agreed to let the English trade (“place Beaver Traps”) on the Onondaga River, they had been deceived, since traders there sold river water as rum for a high price. But instead of asking for better rum, he asked for no rum, since it was causing quarrels between married couples and between young Indians and sachims. When Indians from beyond Iroquoia wanted rum, they should come to Albany for it as they used to do, while traders to the Six Nations should bring powder and Indian goods for the same price as they would cost at Albany.
Finally he conveyed a request from the Senecas that Myndert Wemp return to their country as a smith along with an armorer, Andries Nak, who should be taught to speak their language.
Governor Burnet agreed to ask King George to persuade the King of France to remove Fort Niagara. He did not agree to send a representative to Onondaga for a meeting with Joncaire, claiming that the Six Nations’ own experience should be enough to show that French reports about the English were false. However, he said he would send someone to the Senecas for the winter to address their concerns. He said he would tell the governor of Virginia what the Six Nations asked (that frontier incidents be forgiven) but the best way to prevent Virginia from taking up the hatchet was to stop such attacks. Burnet said he could not control what merchants charged for their goods, and refused to stop selling rum on the Onondaga River. However, he would post someone there to oversee the trade and prevent cheating, and would ask Myndert Wemp to return to the Seneca country as a smith along with an armorer. He wished them a good journey home, told them he was providing them with a “noble Present” from the king, and explained that rum and provisions would be given to them for their journey after they were “past Schenectady.”
Burnet also held a brief conference with the River (Mohican) and Schaghticoke Indians the same day, condoling two sachims who had died, and recommending Wawiachech to replace them, renewing the Covenant Chain, and admonishing them to stay at Schaghticoke and not go to Canada. They thanked him and explained that the people who left for Canada were fleeing debts, but those who remained would live and die at Schaghticoke.
On September 14th Burnet held another private conference, this time with two sachims each from the Senecas and Onondagas and three from the Cayugas, but no Oneidas, Tuscaroras, or Mohawks. The names of those who attended are given as Kanakarighton, Thanintsoronwee, Ottsochkooree, DeKanisoree, Aenjeweerat, Kackjakadorodon, and Sadekeenaghtie. Going considerably beyond what had been discussed in the full conference, the small group consented to Governor Burnet’s suggestion that they sign what Burnet called a “deed of surrender” putting their land in trust to the King of England to be protected for the use of their nations.
A deed was signed, becoming part of the “Original Roll in the Secretary of State’s Office” in Albany and later printed in DRCHNY 5:800. No copy was kept in the records of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, which generally did not include deeds. Peter Wraxall was not aware of the deed when he wrote his Abridgement, which discusses the September 1726 conference on p. 168-169.
In his letter to the Lords of Trade sent with the treaty, (DRCHNY 5:783-785) Governor Burnet explained that he did not tell the Mohawks or Oneidas about the September 14th meeting, since their lands were not at issue and if he told them the French might learn about it sooner. Burnet told the Lords of Trade that he pursuaded the New York Assembly to agree to his proposal to build an English fort at the mouth of the Onondaga River (Oswego). Once it was built he intended to meet the Indians again and get them to publicly confirm the deed, which “some of them have signed.” Thus he acknowledged that it required further confirmation. The deed surrenders the land to be “protected & Defended” by the king for the use of the three nations. It says nothing about building forts. At Burnet’s conference with the Six Nations in 1724, he had succeeded in getting them to agree reluctantly to a trading house at Oswego, but not to a fort.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the proclamation of September 2 1726 starts here.
It is not clear how well Laurence Claessen knew English. The commissioners often instructed him to keep journals of his diplomatic missions, but they generally submitted their own version into the record. In March, Claessen appeared before them and gave them his journal of his recent trip. The minutes describe “in substance” what it said, including a day by day account of how he went to several towns of the Six Nations and invited leaders to a meeting that was held in Seneca country beginning on February 22nd. The participants discussed the ongoing conflicts over the sale of alcohol in Iroquoia and other matters including an English boy taken captive from Virginia and thought to be held in Iroquoia. The Six Nations said they did not have the boy. They asked once again that the English prohibit the sale of alcohol in their country, but Claessen could only tell them once again that sales would be restricted to “Far Indians” from outside Iroquoia to promote the fur trade. The sachems described how alcohol was leading to violence and other problems, even to murders. They gave Claessen a belt of wampum to take back to the English authorities to confirm their position that it should be banned completely. However they agreed not to molest the traders or the far Indians.
In Seneca country, Claessen found Juriaen Hogan, the blacksmith sent by the English, as well as a party of French residents that included a French smith and his family. The Iroquois said the French smith had come to live with them “in a deceitful manner,” returning with a Six Nations delegation that had gone to condole the death of the French governor Ramsay. The smith and his party were, of course, also sending information back to the French, just as Claessen and Hogan were doing for the English. Claessen provided an account of new French boats being constructed on Lake Ontario (Cataraqui) and said the Onondagas had given permission to the French to build a new trading house on the south side of the lake where the Niagara River flows into it. He described the composition of the parties that had gone out fighting over the previous winter, and conveyed the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor in the spring. Claessen also reported that the Six Nations was sending ambassadors to the Waganhas proposing a meeting and invited the commissioners to send their own wampum belts along.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet, passed on the intelligence about French activities, and told him (in somewhat confused English) that the French must be prevented from settling in Iroquoia, and asked for funds to support an ongoing English presence among the Six Nations. They conveyed the request to stop selling alcohol, blamed it on the French influence, and insisted that the traders could not maintain the fur trade without alcohol. They expressed concern that the Six Nations had sent deputies to meet in Seneca country, where the French influence was strongest, instead of to Onondaga as was customary. They also sent the governor the English boy who had run away from the Mohawks at Fort Hunter earlier in the year. Finally they described how Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen had cleared and mended the road at the Oneida Carrying Place, and given a bond to repair the bridge there over Wood Creek.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, March 1726 starts here.
Laurence Claessen is Sent to Negotiate (and Obtain Intelligence)
The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with instructions to resolve the ongoing conflicts between Albany traders and the Haudenosaunee over the sale of rum at the falls on the Onondaga River. The traders, backed by the commissioners, insisted that they had to sell rum to the “far Indians” from beyond Iroquoia in order to attract their trade in furs. The Haudenosaunee had now been saying for several years that they did not want rum sold at all in their country. Laurence Claesson was supposed to resolve this by delivering a belt of wampum telling them that their request had been received by Governor Burnet and that rum would not be sold to the Six Nations.
Claessen was also told to try to obtain the release of an English boy from Virginia who was being held captive in Iroquoia, and to work with Juriaen Hogan, the Anglo-Dutch smith, to obtain information about how many of the Six Nations were out fighting and the actions of the French smith and other Frenchmen living in Seneca Country.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet and informed him about what they were doing, expressing regret for the Six Nations attacks on Virginia and explaining that the Six Nations were wavering in their attachment to the English, leaning instead towards the French at times. To counteract this they recommended posting “some persons of Distinction” in Iroquoia to advance the English cause. They also rejoiced in the news that a peace had been concluded between “Boston” (i.e. New England) and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) in Dummer’s War.
Many thanks to the Schenectady Historical Society for permission to use this image of the portrait of Laurence Claessen that hangs in their collection!
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1726 starts here.
The Conference on Iroquois Research met last week in Oswego, New York. It included many excellent presentations. I gave a talk based on the AIC records for 1723-1725 entitled “The Sappony Prisoner: Servant, Captive, Runaway, or Chief?” It concerns a Sappony captive taken from Virginia to Kahnawake in 1723 and his subsequent fate.
Here is a pdf copy: Captivity_Paper .
The C.I.R. is evolving in very interesting ways. Check out the web page to learn about their work, including their journal, which just published a third issue. They also have a Facebook Page where you can see pictures of the conference and learn more about the presentations.
This is a map of Oswego in 1727, and a marker and plaque from the site of the fort built that year.
I kept thinking about the Iroquois of 1723, as well as the French and Anglo-Dutch traders. They used to navigate these waters in canoes like the ones now on display in the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, following the river up to Onondaga and Oneida. What would they make of the present day city?
In December the commissioners received a letter from Captain John Collins in Schenectady about a Christian boy who had been taken captive by “some of our upper nations.” The commissioners still used “Christian” to mean “European” even though by this time many Native Americans and African Americans were also Christian. They had not yet adopted the use of the term “white,” or at least not in their records.
The boy was taken captive along with this father, who was employed driving horses for traders, and “a negro.” No mention is made of what happened to the other two captives. The boy was taken to Canojoharie (which during this period was one of the two major Mohawk (Kaniengeha’ka) towns, then moved to “the foremost Castle,” which probably means Tiononderoga. According to Collins’s letter, the Indians to whom the boy was given treated him badly and he was advised by other Indians to run away for fear of his life. He now wanted the Christians to rescue him from the “fury of the heathen.” The boy had forgotten English, and had to communicate by way of Laurence Claessen the interpreter.
The commissioners decided to take him in until Governor Burnet could advise them about what to do with him. They arranged to give him clothing and sent him to live with Captain [Evert] Bancker until spring. Like other captives mentioned in the records during this time, the boy, his father, and the African American taken captive with them, all remain unnamed.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, December 1725 starts here.
Blocked from Trading with Montreal, Albany Traders Move West
In September the commissioners made good on their promise to give the governor an account of the volume of the fur trade to the west. Captain Harme Vedder, stationed in Seneca Country, returned with his company and 50 bundles of fur. Many other traders were now going west as well. Despite the difficulties involved, the commissioners put together a detailed list of who had gone to Indian country and how many furs and skins they had purchased. At least fifty-one canoes, each carrying several traders, had been to the lakes and returned with 738 bundles of furs. The list of names covers many if not most Albany families. It also includes an unnamed Indian couple, several unnamed hired men, and a member of the versatile Montour family, Jean Montour. Some traders went more than once and some trips for which details were not provided brought 50 additional bundles of furs. In addition, 43 canoes of “far Indians” came to Albany and Schenectady with 200 bundles.
The direct trade from Albany to Canada was far smaller, as estimated by the commissioners and Lieutenant Blood, who was stationed at the English garrison at Mount Burnet, on the Hudson north of Albany.
Commerce between Albany and Canada continued however. On September 6th, Colonel Myndert Schuyler and Captain De Peyster returned from Canada and took the oath required of persons suspected to have traded with the French, which strongly suggests that they had in fact traded with the French. Moreover they confirmed that they had seen large quantities of strowd blankets sent from Albany to Montreal.
Trade with Montreal is Illegal, But News from Montreal is Valuable;
Grey Lock is Raiding New England
Schuyler and De Peyster also brought important news. A party of 150 warriors had left Montreal on their way to attack New England, passing Chambly, where others were encamped who planned to go as well. The French, including their priests, were encouraging them to fight, and Montreal was fortifying itself with a stone wall. The commissioners informed both New York Governor Burnet and the government of New England about the situation. In a subsequent letter they told Governor Burnet that the party at Chambly had been persuaded to go home instead of attacking New England, but the party of 150 from Montreal were sill out fighting. Two small groups of nine and fourteen were supposed to be lurking on the western frontiers, lead by Grey Lock (Wawenorrawot). The commissioners told Governor Burnet that the Indians were tired of war and wanted peace, but the French continued to push them to war.
The Six Nations Meet with the French
Schuyler and De Peyster said that a large group of leaders from the Six Nations had come to Montreal, where they were honored with a cannon salute. According to some Seneca leaders who came to Albany to tell the commissioners about the situation, and who had resolved not to go to Montreal themselves, the Six Nations contingent included eleven Seneca sachems from Canossodage and six from Onnahee. They went to condole the passing of “Lieutenant Governor” Monsieur “D Ramsay,” (Claude de Ramezay, the governor of Montreal who had died the previous summer.) Probably they also discussed their concerns about the escalating construction of forts in their country by both the French and the English.
Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Want a General Treaty
Lieutenant Colonel Stephanus Grosbeeck had also been in Montreal. He told the commissioners that the sachims of Kahnawage and Schawenadie had sent him an express as he passed La Prairie, asking him by seven hands of wampum to bring a message that they were coming to Albany about October 1st, where they wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Boston (i.e. Massachusetts Bay) as well as the Six Nations. The commissioners contacted Massachusetts Bay Governor William Dummer directly to pass on this message, sending their letter by way of the authorities of Westfield Massachusetts, in order to inform them that they were at risk of attack.
The Six Nations Confirm the Treaty of 1722 with New York and Virginia
On September 26th, twelve sachems from Onondage, Cayuga, and Tuscarora came to Albany and met with the Commissioners. They said they had been sent to look into rumors spread among them and find a way to prevent such stories. They asked the Commissioners to read them the treaty made in 1722 between Virginia and the Six Nations, which was done.
Their speaker D’Kanasore (Teganissorens) gave a speech addressed to Asserigoa, the Iroquois name for the Governor of Virginia, asking the Commissioners to pass it on. He pointed out that the Six Nations had returned two prisoners taken in Virginia, an Indian (probably meaning Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant) and a “Negroe boy,” (probably Captain Robert Hicks’ slave). He said that whoever was going fighting towards Virginia from Canada or from the Six Nations’ castles was doing it without their consent. Nonetheless, if they went past the line agreed to in the treaty of 1722 and were taken prisoner, they should likewise be returned.
Teganissorens also complained that the gunpowder they had purchased recently was defective. He asked for more powder as well as lead and gunflints, pointing out that the cost would be made up by the value of the skins they could obtain with it through hunting. He also asked for a smith as soon as possible, one better than those who had been working there, whose work was not the best.
The Six Nations Have New Objections to Burnet’s Trading House
Like the delegation from Kahnawake and Schawenadie, Teganissorens was not happy with Governor Burnet’s proposal for a trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. He admitted that the Six Nations had consented to it, but he said they now feared it would cause mischief because alcohol would be sold there. People would get drunk, become unruly, and and cause harm. In addition some would likely buy rum instead of ammunition. Teganissorens asked that in the future traders would bring powder and no rum. A slightly different version of this speech was written out and then crossed out. It appears on page 146a.
The Commissioners responded the next day in a speech that verged on being abrupt, even rude. They told the delegates they were glad they wanted to prevent rumors from spreading; the only way to do so was simply refuse to listen to those who tried to delude them. They promised to convey Teganissorens’ speech to the Governor of Virginia, but added that the Six Nations should not let their people go past the boundary line agreed to in 1722. The people of Virginia “will never molest you if you do not excite them to it” and if you commit mischief you will have to answer for it, as also for “those for whom you are become Security.” The reference was to Kahnawake and its allies, the “French Indians.”
In response to the complaint about powder, they said they were sorry the Six Nations were too impoverished to buy enough powder to meet their needs. The Commissioners would ask the governor to write to England to have better powder made, but the real reason for their poverty was that they went fighting against people who had not attacked them. Instead they should stick to hunting. They agreed to convey the request for a smith and expected the governor would send one.
In response to the Six Nations’ request that traders bring powder rather than rum to sell on the Onondaga River, the Commissioners would only say that they would ask the governor to prevent traders from selling rum to the Six Nations and to sell them powder and lead. However, the traders would continue selling rum to the Far Indians because otherwise they would be unable to sell their goods. They urged the delegates to be kind to all traders on the Onondaga River and the lakes and to invite the far Indians to come trade with Albany in order to get goods cheaper than from the French. To encourage this they agreed to supply them with power, lead, and flints to meet their present needs.
The Six Nations added that the bellows at Onondaga was old and not fit for service. They asked for a new one before winter set in. They said they expected their speech to go to the governor of New York and then be forwarded to Virginia, acknowledged that the commissioners had asked them to keep the Treaty, and said they expected Virginia and its Indian allies to do the same. They expected that those who brought evil reports to them (that is rumors) probably did the same with the governor of Virginia, so they hoped he would not listen. They agreed to be kind to traders in their country and assist them however they could.
The commissioners asked what Monsieur Longuiel said when he came to their country, and Teganissorens quoted him at length. “Fathers, [the Six Nations had adopted Longueuil as their “child”] I desire that you be not surpriz’d when any blood shall be shed on the Onnondage River or at the side of the Lake for we and the English can’t well abide one another, do you not meddle with the Quarrel butt Set Still smoke & be neuter.” Tegannisorens confirmed that they had sent wampum to Canada to answer the governor saying they were surprised that the French should “trample on the Blood of their Brethren” in the Six Nations country. If they wanted to fight, they should “go to sea and fight where you have Room.”
Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Appear, Expecting the General Treaty; They Offer an Indian Woman to Make Up for the Murder of a Soldier
Prior to the commissioners’ response to Teganissorens, seven sachems from Kahnewake, Schawenadie and Rondax appeared. They said they had come to meet with the governors of New York and Boston, as they had requested in the message they sent by Stephanus Grosbeeck a few weeks earlier. They expected the commissioners to provide lodging in Albany in the meantime. They had no wampum, for which they asked to be excused. The commissioners provided them with housing and necessities.
On September 28th, they formally condoled the man murdered at Saratoga by their people, presumably the English soldier named Williams from the garrison at Mount Burnet. They asked for reconciliation and forgiveness and gave wampum to wipe off the tears of those in mourning for him. And in addition they offered the commissioners a captive, an Indian woman, in place of the man they had lost. They said it was “not our maxim to do so yet we do it to satisfie you for the breach that is comitted.”
They said those who killed the soldier had been on their way to fight in New England. Their young men were unruly and could not be prevented from going to help the Eastern Indians fighting against the English. They asked the Commissioners to do everything they could to end the war.
The Commissioners explained that they had gotten the wampum message that Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Massachusetts Bay and had sent notice to Boston. The governor there had said that he had to attend a treaty there with the Indians who were at war and asked the Commissioners to hear on his behalf what Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie had to say. The sachems said they would do so only if Colonel John Schuyler were present to represent Massachusetts. The Commissioners said that Colonel Schuyler was welcome to attend, but they did not think he would come. If the sachems did not want to deliver their message to the Commissioners to pass on to him, perhaps they could meet with him alone, or perhaps they would like to go to Boston, where they would be well received.
The next day the Commissioners gave a more full answer, reproaching the sachems for the murder of the soldier when the parties were at peace. They accused them of deliberately breaching the Covenant Chain in order to undermine the good relations between them. Those who committed such murders should be punished. But since the sachems had come to “mediate and reconcile” the matter, the commissioners said they would ask the governor to forgive the injury on condition that the sachems agree to deliver over anyone who committed such an offense in the future. They accepted the woman in place of the dead soldier “as a Token of your Repentance and sorrow for what is past” and gave a belt of wampum. After harangueing them further to the same effect, they gave them additional wampum. The sachems responded that they had heard the message and would communicate it to their leaders at home, since they were not empowered to promise to deliver up people who transgressed in the future.
The Commissioners wrote to the governor of Massachusetts Bay and described the meeting. They referred the governor to Colonel John Schuyler for more information, explaining that the sachems had refused to deliver their message except to him. They wished the governor success in making peace.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1725 starts here at page 142 through 152a and jumps back here to p. 113.
The first entry for May is a letter from Samuel Thaxter, William Dudley, and Theodore Atkinson, representatives from Massachusetts Bay who had gone to meet with Governor Vaudreuil in Montreal to negotiate the release of captives and try to end the war. The first page is missing, but Peter Wraxall’s Abridgment of the Indian Affairs summarizes the complete letter on p. 157-158. Vaudreuil had heard about New York’s plan to build a block house at Oswego and he considered it a violation of the Treaty of Utrecht between France and England. If the blockhouse was constructed, he would tear it down. Vaudreuil claimed that he could order the Five Nations to take English prisoners whenever he liked.
Vaudreuil supported the Abenaki demand that if the English wanted peace, they must return all Abenaki lands, including all of Lacadie (Nova Scotia) except the fort at Anapolis Royall as well as everything claimed by Massachusetts for 30 leagues along the Atlantic coast, including existing English settlements and forts. Massachusetts Bay (and Wraxall) considered these demands to be absurd. The Abenaki also asked that their church at Norridgewalk, which the English had destroyed, be rebuilt, the plunder taken there returned, and a priest restored to them. Their priest, Father Sebastien Rale, had been killed in the fighting the previous summer.
Vaudreuil claimed that he did not encourage the Abenaki, although papers taken at Norridgewalk showed otherwise. He refused to put anything in writing. He also refused to do anything to retrieve the English captives held by Indians. Even as to English captives held by the French, he told the Massachusetts Bay representatives that they would have to ransom them at whatever price was set by their owners.
The Massachusetts Bay representatives bemoaned Vaudreuil’s conduct. Many French owners of captives had raised their ransom prices. The letter ended with a plea for help: everything showed “what hardships and Intolerable Burthen his Maj.es Good Subjects lye under, being used more like brute creatures than Men & Christians & call alowd upon all Men under the Same King to lend a helping hand to gett the aforesd. Governm.tts out of this Unjust War.”
The term “unjust war” carried a lot of legal weight during this period. It suggests that the representatives may have been starting to question their governor’s aggressive policies towards the Abenaki. Not surprisingly, Wraxall’s Abridgement does not include this part of the letter, in which the New England representatives sound strangely like the Six Nations, tired of the war and looking for help in persuading the government to end it. At the conference with Governor Burnet in September 1724, the Six Nations had reminded the governor that they had sent a wampum belt to King George with a message that “this matter of peace lieth with you.”
Albany Passes on the Iroquois Message to Governor Burnet
The next entry, dated May 6th, is a copy of a letter from the commissioners to the governor. They passed on the message from the “Canada Indians” (Kahnawake and its allies) and confirmed by the Six Nations asking the British and the French both to refrain from building additional forts and trading houses in the country of the Six Nations for fear they would come to blows with each other. The commissioners had to be tactful because the governor had previously insisted that it was Albany traders who persuaded the Six Nations to oppose his proposed trading house at Oswego, where the Six Nations thought it was likely to provoke a French attack. The commissioners also passed on the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor.
The 1722 Law Against Trading Indian Goods with Canada is Still Not Working
The commissioners told the governor that they would try “as much as lyes in our Sphere of bussiness” to discourage “French Indians” from transporting strowd blankets in violation of the governor’s trade policy, but the implication is clear: they did not believe they had the authority to take direct action. They also informed the governor that action had been taken against Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell, who had been caught with goods intended for the illegal trade with Canada the previous October, but their description probably did not satisfy the governor. The sheriff agreed to keep Schuyler at his own house while Schuyler gathered bedding and other things in preparation for going to jail, but as they were going there Schuyler made his escape. They informed Evert Wendell, a commisioner himself, about the situation. It is unclear what happened to Jacob Wendell.
Finally the commissioners said they were looking for a smith to go to Indian Country and passed on the information obtained from the Massachusetts Bay Commissioners.
Governor Burnet Won’t Meet the Six Nations; The Commissioners Try to Reassure Them
Governor Burnet wrote to the Commissioners telling them that he could not possibly meet the Six Nations that year because he was occupied with business in another province, but he would meet them the following year. The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with this message and the mission to “quiet the minds of the Indians” in the face of the French efforts to undermine their alliance with New York. Laurence was told to explain that the governor did not plan to make a fort on Lake Ontario, but just a trading house on the “Onnondage River,” now called the Oswego River. The commissioners also agreed with Harme van Slyck Junior and Egbert Egbertse to work as smiths at Onondaga.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, May 1725 starts here.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1724 starts here
Most of the minutes for September cover a treaty conference with New York Governor William Burnet, the Six Nations, and the Schaghticokes that was held in Albany beginning on September 14th. They are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 713. I have not transcribed them because O’Callaghan’s version is essentially identical, but will briefly summarize them here.
On September 14th, Governor Burnet held a private conference with the Six Nations, New York Council member Francis Harrison, and Massachusetts Bay Council member John Stoddard. They discussed what had happened between the Six Nations messengers sent to bring the Eastern Indians to a peace treaty at Boston and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) at the mission town of St. Francis.
The messengers said that they went first to Montreal and met with the Governor, who wanted to hold the meeting at Montreal so that he could be there. The messengers agreed in order to get an interpreter. While waiting for the St. Francis Indians, they went to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) until the St. Francis delegates arrived. They invited the St. Francis sachems to come to Albany to talk about peace, but they replied that they could not lay down the hatchet against New England, because New England had taken their land and still held their people prisoner. They said that they would make peace when New England restored the land and freed the prisoners. They suggested that the parties wishing to make peace should come to Montreal rather than Albany.
Governor Burnet reminded the messengers that the Six Nations had told Boston that they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not comply with their requests. They denied agreeing to this, despite all his efforts, “they knew not of any promise or Engagement, only that they promised His Excellency to be mediators for Peace.”
The next day Governor Burnet welcomed the Six Nations in the name of King George and gave them wampum belts incorporating letters of the alphabet. The meanings of many of these initials are somewhat obscure. He thanked them for opening the path for far nations to come trade at Albany, claiming that this meant that goods were now more plentiful for the Six Nations. (While this might have been the case for those in the west, it is questionable whether things were working out equally well for the Mohawks). He noted that he had also improved the passage at Wood Creek where goods were carried from the Mohawk River watershed to Oneida Lake and eventually Lake Ontario by way of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River), a bottleneck for trade to and from the west.
Governor Burnet also said that he was keeping a force of young men with the Senecas with a smith and a trading house and that he also planned to send some men to the Onondagas, where the main trade with the far nations would pass. They planned to build a block house at the mouth of the Onondaga River. (“Onondaga River” did not mean what is now called Onondaga Creek, but rather what is now called the Oswego River where it enters Lake Ontario at Oswego.) Burnet’s men planned to live there along with a smith so they could be good neighbors to the Six Nations “and live as comfortably among you as they do here at home.” He explained that this would bring the beaver trade into Iroquoia along with cheaper goods. Governor Burnet explained that to show how much he wanted their beavers, he was wearing clothes made of beaver cloth. He asked the Six Nations to keep the path open for the far nations and to welcome the New Yorkers living in Seneca country as well as those who would be coming to Onondaga to build the new blockhouse.
Next Governor Burnet reminded the Six Nations that they had said they would send messengers to the Eastern Indians and take appropriate measures if the Eastern Indians continued to fight against New England. He said their continued friendship depended on them keeping their word, but he would leave it to the deputies from Boston to discuss the details.
On September 16th, the Six Nations met with the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay. Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of this meeting made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests to stop fighting. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. They reiterated the position of the Eastern Indians that they would not make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking their brothers.
The next day, on September 17th, the Six Nations renewed the Covenant Chain with New York and thanked the governor for providing a smith to the Senecas and Onondaga, for clearing the passage at Wood Creek and for encouraging the far Indians to come to trade. They agreed to the block house near Onondaga, but expressed concern about what the prices for goods would be. They asked that the proposed blockhouse be located at the end of Oneida Lake instead of at the mouth of the Onondaga River. They acknowledged having said that they would “resent it” if the Eastern Indians continued to attack New England, and agreed to speak to the Boston commissioners about it. The Senecas asked why Myndert Wemp, a smith who they found “good, kind, & charitable” had not returned after spending time there with Major Abraham Schuyler two years before.
Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of the proceedings between the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations on September 16th made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed inO’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. (This belt is described in the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of volume 5 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724.) The Six Nations explained the position of the Eastern Indians, who refused to make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking Massachusetts.
A few days later, on September 19th, Governor Burnet addressed the Six Nations again. Burnet’s tone was testy, even autocratic, and reveals the rifts still present between the British authorities and the Albany traders. Burnet told the sachems that the English blockhouse needed to be at the mouth of the Onondaga River in order to control the beaver trade, and that it must be the bad advice of the Albany traders that led the Six Nations to prefer the Oneida Lake location. He also blamed the traders for suggesting that goods should be as cheap at Onondaga as at Albany despite the additional work involved to bring them there from Albany, and for suggesting that Abraham Schuyler and Myndert Wemp return. He said that Albany was interfering in order to preserve its own trade with the French and asked the Six Nations not to consult the Albany traders in the future. He told them that he, not the Six Nations, would appoint his officers, that he would not appoint Abraham Schuyler because “he has taken a wrong way to get himself named,” and that he was sending Harme Vedder and Myndert Wemp’s brother to the Seneca instead of Schuyler and Mydert Wemp. (In the end, however, he appears to have sent Myndert Wemp after all.) He said that if he knew who had put these false notions into the minds of the Six Nations he would punish them.
Burnet said that the Six Nations had admitted to the Boston commissioners that they had agreed to support Boston against the Eastern Indians. He was not happy with their decision to wait for a response from the King of Great Britain before taking up arms. He claimed that the colonies were authorized by the king to make war with Indians on their own without the king’s consent. Burnet insisted that if the Six Nations were so “unworthy and cowardly” as to refuse to make war, they must at least allow their young men to enlist as soldiers in Boston’s army. He gave them what he described as “a very large Present” and wished them a safe journey home.
The Six nations sachems replied by D’Kannasore (Teganissorens) that since the governor did not approve of the location at Oneida Lake, they wished him “joy” where he proposed to make it and hoped it would bring many beavers. He thanked the governor for wishing them a good trip home, for many of their leaders had been lost on such journeys. He asked how many people planned to settle at the end of the Onnondaga river, to which the governor estimated 40 or 50. Teganissorens explained that he had been appointed as speaker by the Six Nations on the governor’s recommendation and that they had agreed to take his advice. He asked the governor whether he would also accept his advice, which the governor said he would do on matters of consequence.
Governor Burnet also met with the Schaghticoke sachems and complained that some of their people had been involved in attacks on New England. The Boston Commissioners at the meeting accused individuals from Schaghticoke named Schaschanaemp and Snaespank of injuring settlers on the frontiers, acknowledging that people at Schaghticoke had formerly lived “on our frontiers”. They were still welcome to hunt there “on the Branches of our Rivers” and considered friends who should not harbor New England’s enemies. The Schaghticokes admitted that Schaschanaemp and another person had come through Schaghticoke and had gone to the Half Moon and Saratoga. They said that the attacks might have been committed by people who had left Schaghticoke to live in Canada. In response to Governor Burnet’s question as to why so many people were moving from Schaghticoke to Canada, they said that one group had left because they heard that they were going to be attacked next by the Indians who were attacking New England, but they did not tell the rest of the Schaghticokes before they left. The governor accused the sachems of having no command over their people and reminded them that a Tree was planted by a former governor for them to live under (a metaphor for Governor Edmund Andros’s policy of sanctuary for refugees from New England).
The Schaghticokes said the tree was decaying, its leaves withering, and they had only a little land now to plant on. Some of them had gone hunting peacefully on the New England frontiers two years before, but were taken prisoner and put in jail in Boston. Jacob Wendell, an Albany trader who became a merchant in Boston, rescued them, but without him they would have been treated as enemies. Some of those who had been jailed had now gone to fight against New England to revenge themselves. The Boston commissioners said they were jailed by mistake because they were on Pennecook River where Boston’s enemies lived, but they were freed as soon as the mistake was discovered.
The Schaghticokes ended by renewing the covenant and affirming the Tree of Peace and Friendship planted at Schaghticoke. They would turn down requests to fight with the Eastern Indians against New England and follow the lead of the Six Nations. They, like the Six Nations, were waiting to hear King George’s response to the wampum belt message sent to him. Governor Burnet renewed the covenant and gave them gifts.
The Albany Indian Commissioners records for September 1724 include one document not printed in O’Callaghan, the record of a meeting on September 19th between the commissioners and Governor Burnet. Burnet changed the makeup of the commissioners by removing Johannes Wendell and restoring Robert Liviingston Junior. He arranged to pay back Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen for financing the work done at the Wood Creek carrying place by Major Goose Van Schaick and David Vanderheyden. He also arranged to get additional work done there to make a bridge over the creek and remove trees from the Mohawk River channel. He appointed Harme Vedder to go the Seneca Country and specified that he get the canoes used there by Jacob Verplank. He also laid out other details about work to be done in Iroquoia. Myndert Wemp or Juriaen Hogan were preferred as smiths at Onondaga, and tools were to be provided there, although he said he would need to get the funding confirmed by the New York Council.
Last but not least, Governor Burnet said that he would not allow any more money for the interpreter’s travel expenses except if the governor ordered him to go. The interpreter, Lawrence Claessen, traveled to Iroquoia on a regular basis and these trips were important in diplomatic relations between New York and the Six Nations. Burnet was making it more difficult for the Albany Indian Commissioners to conduct their affairs. Clearly matters were still not resolved between the governor and the commissioners.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, July 1724 starts here
The commissioners’ minutes do not record the meetings between the New England delegates, the Six Nations, and the four allied nations headed by Kahnawake / Caughnawaga, although it is clear that such meetings took place. This might be related to a decision by the Massachusetts government not to publish records related to the ongoing war with the Abenaki (Eastern Indians). The government had published the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724 (v. 5) The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1924, but decided (p. 235) that publicizing proceedings related to the war was impeding the war effort. They also decided to bury their collection of scalps (Journals … v. 6 p. 210) in secret “so as not to be discovered or produced again.”
On July 1 the Albany Indian Commissioners suggested to the Massachusetts Bay delegates that Albany should have a private conference with the Six Nations sachems. With Massachusetts Bay’s approval, they tried to persuade the Six Nations to send envoys to the Eastern Indians who were still out fighting to order them “come to Terms of Peace and Submission” with Massachusetts Bay, end their hostilities, and send representatives to Boston to conclude a formal peace treaty. They asked the Six Nations to be guarantees for the good behavior of the Eastern Indians.
The minutes do not record the initial response of the Six Nations except to note that it was “delitory and not Satisfactory.” After further consultation, the Six Nations said that they had made proposals to the Kahnawake sachems and their allies and they had agreed to peace. The Six Nations had thought that would conclude the war, but they now agreed with the proposed plan and appointed three men, Tarighdoris, Jacob alias Adatsondie, and Assredowax, to go to negotiate with the Eastern Indians. They asked for wampum belts and a canoe as well as reimbursement for the messengers to pay them for their “trouble & fatigue.” They also asked that someone from New York go with them.
The commissioners wrote to Massachusetts Bay expressing the hope that the Massachusetts Bay delegates would confirm that they had acted in New England’s best interests and worked with the Six Nations to persuade Kahnawake and its allies to bury the hatchet. They said that the Six Nations had insisted “tho’ very absurd” that peace would be concluded when the Indian hostages were returned (by Massachusetts Bay), but had finally agreed to send messengers to stop the Eastern Indians from fighting and require them to come to Boston with the Six Nations for a peace treaty. The commissioners said the Six Nations would compel them by the sword to do so if they did not agree, although it is clear from the wording that the Six Nations was not fully behind this idea.
In the midst of the peace negotiations, the Board met with the Seneca messengers who had gone to the far nations the previous winter to invite them to trade at Albany. They had met with six different nations, none of which are named, adding some extra wampum belts in order to do so. Most of those nations promised to come to Albany. But several of their canoes were met and stopped by near “the Palatines Land at the ffalls,” probably the vicinity of present day Little Falls, where many Palatines had settled. The people there pressured and bribed them to sell their goods there instead of bringing them to Albany. The far Indians and the Six Nations were highly displeased about this.
A letter from the commissioners to Governor Burnet explained the results of the negotiations with the Six Nations as well as the problems encountered by the far Indians intercepted on their way to Albany by “our people who go up to trade.” They asked for reimbursement for redeeming two captives from the Indians who were now being returned to other kinds of captivity. One was a negro boy belonging to Captain Hicks of Virginia, conveyed home by Captain (Henry?) Holland. The other was an Indian who was probably the Sapponi Indian servant of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia.
Finally on July 14th, some far Indians did come to Albany, explaining that the French had persuaded many of their group to go to Canada instead by telling them that they would be poisoned in Albany. They had an additional purpose in coming besides trade: to condole Pieter Schuyler (Quider), who had died in February. The commissioners welcomed them and thanked them for condoling Colonel Schuyler according to custom, promising that they would always be welcomed as they were by Schuyler himself. The commissioners accepted the calumet pipe presented by the visitors and gave them food, blankets, rum, pipes, and tobacco, assuring them that the French were lying and that they would find cheap goods in Albany.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, April 1723 starts here
On April 6th, the Onondaga diplomat Teganissorens (the commissioners spelled his name D’Canassore) came to Albany to discuss relations between the Five Nations and Virginia. He assured the Commissioners that the Five Nations would respect the peace agreement they had made with Virginia the previous fall and refrain from attacking Virginia’s native allies. By 1723, Teganissorens had had a long and successful career during which he helped to shape the relations between indigenous and colonial powers throughout the North Atlantic region. He was no longer young, and the journey from Onondaga to Albany was a lengthy one. His trip to Albany suggests that the treaty with Virginia had been called into question in a significant way.
The next entry in the Minute Book, an April 23rd letter to New York Governor Burnet, suggests that the issue was the Saponi man taken captive near Fort Christanna in Virginia by a raiding party from Kahnawake, the Mohawk community near Montreal, as described in the minutes for January and February. The commissioners told Burnet in their letter that they had still been unable to get him released. Perhaps Governor Spotswood of Virginia, who saw the Saponi captive as his own servant, had argued that keeping the prisoner violated the treaty and asked Governor Burnet to pressure the commissioners to force the Five Nations to use their influence with the Kahnawagas to have the captive returned.
Teganissorens reassured the English that the treaty remained in place, but if the captive was the issue, he either could not or would not force his return. The end of the letter finally reveals what is really going on. The captive has chosen to go to Kahnawake in Canada rather than return to his own country, and now he has been made a Sachim. The commissioners have sent orders to Kahnawaga for him to return, but they don’t expect him to do so. Apparently the captive, who remains anonymous, would rather be a chief at Kahnawake than work for Governor Spotswood.
From the Five Nations and Kahnawake point of view, he likely could be a valuable player in Iroquois negotiations with the Sapponis as well as the English. His proficiency in his own language as well as English could be an important asset. Perhaps he had even learned to read and write at Governor Spotswood’s school at Christanna, making him even more useful.
As often happened, the commissioners were caught in the middle of a delicate situation. Kahnawake and the Five Nations had the upper hand. All the commissioners could do was try to assure the English authorities that they had done everything they could to assert English sovereignty and get the captive returned. Their letter provides insights into the relations between Kahnawake and the Five Nations, as well as between the Five Nations, Albany, and the English government. As they explain, the residents of Kahnawake are part of the Five Nations. If they are treated roughly, the Five Nations will take offense. They may not react publicly, because they want to maintain good relations with Albany, where they obtain “bread & Cloathing.” But they will find “underhand” ways to injure English subjects in the “remotest part of the Government,” that is the areas distant from the centers of colonial control. The commissioners and their families frequented those areas. Without the support of the Five Nations, even Albany itself was still vulnerable to military attack and the loss of the fur trade.
The entry for Fort Christanna in the WordPress blog Native American Roots provides some interesting additional information. The fort itself was closed in 1718, but Saponi people continued to live in the area. Some of their children were “bound out” to local colonists. Perhaps this is how the captive became Governor Spotswood’s servant.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, February 1723 starts here
There is only one entry for February, a copy of a letter to Governor Burnet that reveals more about the story of Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant. Taken prisoner in Virginia, Spotswood’s servant prefers to go to Canada with his Kahnawake captors rather than return to servitude in Virginia. The Albany Indian Commissioners claim that they did everything they could to persuade the Mohawks to turn him over, but to no avail. They say they could not force the issue without jeopardizing the Five Nations’ support for suppressing the Eastern Indians (Abenaki Confederacy.) hostilities against New England. They explain to New York Governor Burnet that the Five Nations consider the “Canada Indians” who hold the prisoner to be part of themselves.